re: The Catskills. (Or: What I Mean When I Talk About Undercovered Issues in Undercovered Areas.)

Old Black River Produce

The catchphrase at Stry last year was simple: Stry covers undercovered issues in undercovered areas. And any time I mentioned that line, I brought up another.

It’s from a conversation I had with a local when I was down in Biloxi last year, covering the aftermath of Katrina. We were talking about local issues, and she said:

“It’s five years after Katrina, Dan. We’ve still got problems. Why isn’t anyone talking to us about what we’re going through?”

Then came the pause, of course. There is always a pause.

“Is it because we’re from the South?”

And I told her: No. This is the kind of story that gets ignored everywhere. If it happened in Maine or Montana, it’d get forgotten, too, just like Katrina.

I bring that up because just now, I went walking through the lobby here at the Missouri School of Journalism. CNN was on one of the TVs. The governor of the state of Vermont was speaking. And the caption at the bottom of the screen read: “Vermont sees worst flooding since 1927.”

Now, I’d read about the flooding the day before. A lone paper up in the Catskills was trying to cover it. The big papers were completely silent. CNN, to their great credit, did get a reporter up on the scene.

But now it’s 24+ hours since the flooding began — and we’re talking about massive, historic flooding happening just hours from the biggest media market in the galaxy — and the coverage is just beginning to come in.

When I’m talking about undercovered issues in undercovered areas, the Catskills don’t always come to mind. But they’re exactly the kind of place I’m thinking of.

They’re exactly the kind of place I want Stry to cover.

photo at top of flooding in Proctorsville, Vt., via Flickr

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Why I’m Starting The #BergChat

The Heidelberg
Dear University of Missouri J-Schooler,

I remember when I was but a wee undergrad. The year was 2009. A young man named Barack Obama had taken stewardship of our country. The economy was in the crapper. I drove around in a Chevy TrailBlazer with vanity plates.

Much has changed since then. (The Blazer no longer has vanity plates.) But one thing hasn’t:

At our alma mater, the University of Missouri, there exist two distinct sectors of our esteemed School of Journalism: the school itself, and the Reynolds Journalism Institute.(1) The J-school is doing some awesome stuff. So is RJI.

Problem is, we’re not always doing great stuff together.

Even though these clusters exist within the same damn building, there’s still a gap between the two. Young J-schoolers dare not venture into RJI. Us RJIers would rather not wander off into the J-school.(2)

Here’s the point: there’s some pretty incredible Journalism Stuff™(3) going on in Columbia, MO, and there need not be a gap between RJI and the J-school.

So I’m launching a new thing this year: The #BergChat. It’s a weekly session in which I’ll invite anyone from the J-school community to sit down with me for 30 minutes to talk about… well, whatever you want. An idea you’ve got. A question you’ve been afraid to ask. A resume you’d like an extra pair of eyes on.

And while we’re chatting, I’ll buy you a beer.(4)

Now, the fine print:

1. Every #BergChat must take place at the World Famous Heidelberg Restaurant. It’s tricky to find, so here are the Google Maps directions from the J-school for those who’ve never been:


View Larger Map

2. The #BergChat will last 30 minutes.

3. During said #BergChat, I will buy you a beer, or, if you’re not inclined/able, a drink of your choice.

4. To schedule a #BergChat, follow me on Twitter at @danoshinsky. Each week, I’ll be tweeting out times when I’ll be holding a #BergChat. I’ll open up a handful of half-hour slots. The first (pre-specified number) of folks to respond will be given a timeslot. All you have to do is show up and chat.

5. Each J-schooler gets exactly one #BergChat with me. After that, you’ll just have to stop by my office if you’d like to continue the conversation. Or agree to buy me lunch.(5)

6. The #BergChat can just be one-on-one, or it can be a group of students chatting. But I won’t take on a group that doesn’t fit in a Heidelberg booth. So essentially, it’s got to be a group of three or less.

Point is: I’m reaching out to you, the J-school population. It’s up to you to make the next step and get involved with what we’re doing at RJI.

See you at the Berg.

-Dan

  1. I should note here: Counsel has advised me to cease and desist referring to them as my personal Daddy Warbucks.
  2. Except on occasions when there’s free food over in Walter Williams.
  3. Trademark of Oshinsky, Inc., 2011.
  4. For free. Free, as in: no purchase necessary. Cash value of said beer must be less than or equal to $5. The #BergChat will end immediately if the #BergChat-ee attempts to buy a Natural Light with his/her free beer. These are my terms.
  5. Hint: I’m a Noodles and Co. fan.

The $1,000 Father-Son Belly Challenge.

This is the kind of thing that I shouldn’t go doing. It’s not nice of me to take an old man’s money.

And yet, that’s just what I intend to do.

The old man in question just happens to be my old man, Bill Oshinsky (he’s the little fella you see in the photo below). And he’s got it fixed into that bald skull of his that he can get into better shape than me.

Day 1.

So we’ve made this bet: We’re going to spend a year getting into shape. And on Aug. 1, 2012, we’ll rendezvous to decide who’s got the better belly. Winner gets $1,000. Loser pays.

I’m not going to waste valuable kilowhatevers here on danoshinsky.com with this sort of nonsense, so we’ve set up one of them Tumblrs for you to follow along. Check out bellychallenge.com for more.

A Question From Me, The Professional Question Asker.


I went to see NBC News’ David Gregory speak tonight in a little auditorium on Nantucket Island. He spoke for an hour, mostly about the failures of our political system and our economy and our media, and then he closed by reminding everyone that we were on a little island 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, and that everything probably isn’t as bad as it seems.

When that was over, Gregory opened up the floor to questions.

This is the part of the lecture I hate.

Not the idea of Q&A. That I love. We need more Q&A in our lives, and not just at big fancy lectures involving salt-and-pepper-haired reporters in nice blazers. We need lots of thoughtful questions and lots of thoughtful answers in our day-to-day lives. And we need everyone to be asking and thinking and listening in order to be part of this nice little experiment in domestic living that we’ve got going on here in America.

Participation is a very, very good thing, and I encourage it highly.

What I dislike is that I ever since I got my degree from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, something’s changed for me. I’ll be at a lecture like I was tonight. I’ll be there with someone else. Let’s call this man, for the sake of accuracy, my father. The moderator will open up the floor to questions. And I will sit back in my chair and listen to questions being asked.

Dad does not like this.

See, my father does not see me as a reporter. Or a journalist. Or a writer. He sees me as a Professional Question Asker. That’s what he believes I earned a degree in out in ol’ Columbia, Mo. And when an opportunity to use my Professional Question Asking skills passes without me asking a question… well, he sees it as an invalidation of my college degree.

And I find this funny. Because I am most definitely not a Professional Question Asker. If there’s anything my Mizzou degree certifies, it’s that I’m a Professional Listener. My job is, if at all possible, to shut up and listen. And then report what I’ve learned. That’s why I’m usually in the back of the room scribbling notes on the lecture program.

At these Q&As, I do this quite well.

Dad does not like this.

Sorry, pops.

But here’s what I’m thinking: Pilots don’t get asked to fly planes on their day off. Bobby Flay doesn’t get thrown behind the grill every time he goes out to eat. Librarians don’t just show up at random libraries and start implementing the Dewey Decimal System.

So I suppose it’s with several years of Professional Question Asking behind me that I ask this: Why do I keep getting picked on?